Sri Lanka Cinnamon is also called Ceylon Cinnamon the name derived from the islands former name. The affinity between Sri Lanka and Cinnamon is so strong that the very botanical name of the spice - Cinnamomum Zeylanicum is also derived from the island's former latin name,for Ceylon.
The gentle coastal hills of southern Sri Lanka from Negombo to Galle are especially suited to the growth of Sri Lanka Cinnamon. A variety of laurel, Cinnamonum Zeylanicum, “Real cinnamon” is more or less exclusively native to Sri Lanka. It is not to be confused with the cheaper and inferior “Cassia” which is sometimes sold as Cinnamon in North America.
Cassia has relatively high levels of coumarin which could be toxic. Sri Lanka Cinnamon on the other hand has 1250 times less coumarin than Cassia. So the next time you buy Cinnamon make sure it is Sri Lanka Cinnamon and not Cassia a substitute for Sri Lanka Cinnamon.
Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) states that Coumarin is a flavouring which is found in higher concentrations in the types of Cinnamon grouped together under the name “Cassia Cinnamon”. Relatively small amounts of coumarin can already damage the liver of particularly sensitive individuals. However, this is not permanent damage. Isolated coumarin may not be added to foods.
Coumarin is a natural flavouring and perfume that is found in many plants. It occurs in higher concentrations in the types of cinnamon grouped together under the name “cassia cinnamon”, for instance woodruff, tonka beans and melilot.
A rough distinction can be made between two types of Cinnamon. Sri Lanka Cinnamon only contains low levels of coumarin which are safe from the Institute’s risk assessment perspective. By contrast, cassia cinnamon contains high levels of coumarin and large amounts of this cinnamon should not, therefore, be eaten.
It is almost impossible for consumers to distinguish between Sri Lanka Cinnamon and cassia cinnamon in cinnamon powder. The situation is different in the case of cinnamon sticks. Whereas in the case of cassia cinnamon a relatively thick layer of the bark has been rolled into a stick, the cross-section of a Sri Lanka Cinnamon sticks looks more like a cigarette - several thin layers of bark have been rolled up into a cinnamon stick resulting in a comparatively compact cross-section. The origin of the cinnamon is not normally declared on the packaging; sometimes false information has been supplied in the past.
No maximum level has been established for coumarin as yet. Consumer safety is, however, ensured by the general food law provisions which prohibit the marketing of "unsafe foods”. Furthermore, BfR believes it would be prudent to establish maximum coumarin levels for cinnamon. BfR will prepare the scientific basis for this. If coumarin-containing plant parts like cinnamon are used for flavouring, then the amount of coumarin is limited to 2 milligrams per kilogram food according to the Flavourings Ordinance.
Food manufacturers and importers are responsible for ensuring compliance with maximum levels. They may not place harmful foods on the market.